It may be sunny in Seattle – you should see it, people, there are cherry trees blooming here, in the middle of February, and little baby daffodils playing peek-a-boo with the old fall leaves – but that cold front I was telling you about? I’d be lying if I said it was completely over.
I have made a little progress on the appetite thing, though. I started taking one medication at night instead of in the morning, and that helped almost immediately. I appreciate how many of you left comments about the hunger-stomping properties of another lupus drug, too – Plaquenil didn’t change my appetite the first time I was on it, but it could very well be the culprit this time.
But yes, maybe things are looking up. My friend Lorna just posted a tantalizing beef stroganoff photo that forced me to make a new shopping list. I’m spending longer at the grocery store again. And as development for holiday recipes kicks into gear (it’s crazy, I know, but that’s the magazine world), my creativity is starting to return.
In the kitchen, I’ve changed tacks a little. I’ve been cooking things I love making – foods I relish for the doing, not just for the eating. There’s been corona bean and bacon minestrone, because it’s fun to cook beans that end up close to the size of a wine cork. Ginger-scented tomato and beef stew, because I know the beef is seared properly when the fire alarm goes off, and that damned robot’s dependability cracks me up every time. There’s been sausage and feta strata, whipped up for breakfast at the neighbor’s house, because crossing the driveway in my slippers holding a casserole dish makes me feel like a good person. (Coincidentally, I set an oven mitt on fire taking that strata out of the oven, and that didn’t trigger the fire alarm. Go figure.) I’ve also been working on a top secret muffin recipe, for the July issue of edibleSEATTLE, that might very well be the crowning glory of my baking career. (Just wait. You’ll see. Here’s a sneak peek: Six muffins. Half a pound of bacon.)
Last week, I went back to one of the very first things I learned to make: homemade granola. I like it mostly because it’s both infinitely flexible and difficult to make perfectly. At its simplest, it’s a mixture of oats, a fat (often oil), and a sweetener (often brown sugar or honey, or a mixture of the two), and sundry accompaniments – nuts, seeds, fruit, spices. As long as everything gets coated in a sweet lubricant and toasted to some degree in the oven, then cooled to crunchy right on the baking sheet and broken up into snackable chunks, it can hardly be bad. (Coat some cardboard in butter and sugar, toast it, and I’d probably eat that, too, if it doesn’t set the fire alarm off first.) But finding the (sorry) sweet spot between ultimate toastiness, that rich shade of brown that maximizes flavor and helps the oats form into wonderfully spoonable clusters, and burned granola, is a delicate thing. I watch my granola carefully.
This time, I decided to bring in the new guard – all those whole grains that have been lining up in my pantry for months now. I’ve used them on and off individually here – millet for muffins, bulgur for salad, quinoa for pancakes – but I rarely use lots of whole grains together, and I’d actually never cooked with amaranth, those teensy-tiny protein-rich seeds sold in the bulk foods bins. But if I need anything right now, it’s something new. Amassed and sprinkled in with oats, cashews, pecans, and sesame seeds, these grains churned out a rich, earthy-tasting granola speckled with color. It’s crunchy, filling, and (best of all, for me, for now) incredibly interesting to eat.
So on we go.
Made with oats, millet, quinoa, and amaranth (plus cashews, pecans, sunflower seeds, and a good hit of cinnamon), this granola packs flavor, crunch and nutrition. Look for the grains in the bulk foods section of a natural foods store.
TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: About 15 loose cups granola
1 (18-ounce) container old fashioned oats
1 cup cashews, roughly chopped
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1 cup sunflower seeds, roughly chopped
1/3 cup millet
1/3 cup red quinoa
1/3 cup amaranth
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 cup honey
1 cup canola oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats, and set aside.
Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the honey and canola oil (the honey is easier to mix in if you soften it in the microwave for about 45 seconds first), and mix until thoroughly combined.
Divide the granola between the two baking sheets, spreading it into an even layer on each sheet, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring the granola and rotating sheets top to bottom and back to front halfway through. The granola is done when it’s uniformly deep golden brown.
Let the granola cool to room temperature on the baking sheets. Break apart and store in an airtight container.